By : Utpal Borpujari
The mysterious stoneman of Mumbai returns to the big screen
It’s a mystery that still remains unsolved, despite a massive official investigation into it. It was something that created a sensation in the whole country because of the sheer barbarity of it. Now, a Hindi feature film is seeking to go into the story behind the story, with its makers claiming to have exposed how there had been an “enormous cover up” by the investigating agencies.
We are talking about the “Pattharmaar” incident that shook Mumbai in 1983, in which a still-unidentified maniac smashed the heads of a number of innocent homeless sleeping on the pavements over a period, killing them instantly. The incidents, which had stopped as abruptly as they had started, had horrified the country, and created a sensation even in those pre-news channel days, with the image of a huge stone lying next to each of the killed people still etched in the minds of people till now.
Now, that story of the mysterious stoneman is being brought alive in The Stoneman Murders, its makers calling it a hard-hitting expose. The film’s producer, Bobby Bedi, who had also produced Shekhar Kapur’s masterpiece The Bandit Queen, says that it will be as shocking as his earlier film that had won international applause.
The film seeks to answer three basic questions – what was the real story behind the serial killings that took place in Mumbai in 1983, why was this serial killer not caught when every other serial killer had been apprehended, and was there a cover up by the agencies that were investing this case?
“The film asks some straight questions and exposes the rot in the system that allowed for the cover up of a crime of such magnitude that let the killer go scot free,” says Manish Gupta, its director, who had wrote the screenplay and dialogues of Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar. With Kay Kay Menon, Arbaaz Khan and Vikram Gokhale in pivotal roles, the film is slated for release across the country on February 13.
“We did extensive research by going into media coverage of the incidents, and you can say it is 40 per cent fact mixed with 60 per cent fiction. It’s an unsolved mystery – nobody knows who the killer was, why he killed so many people. This makes it a very intriguing story to tell on the big screen,” Gupta told Deccan Herald. Incidentally, during his research, he did not speak to the police as “they anyway could not do anything”.
“When I first saw this script, I was completely taken aback by the mystery of so many murders that took place in Mumbai, with not definitive arrest. Our writer had done extensive research on these serial killings. We found that there had been detailed investigations by the agencies but the killer was apparently never found. Without giving away the plot of the film I will say with conviction, that there was an enormous cover up on part of the investigating agencies. And this coverup is exactly what our film exposes,” say Bedi.
“Stoneman or ‘pattharmaar’, as he was known, is the only serial-killer case in India that was never solved. The identity of this killer, 25 years after he killed his last victim, remains a mystery to the world even now. The reason was that his identity and motives were probably covered up. How and why is what the movie is all about,” says Gupta.
In the film, the story unfolds just the stoneman has just claimed his fifth victim but the Mumbai police is yet to take it seriously. Suspended sub-inspector Sanjay Shelar (played by Kay Kay Menon) sees an opportunity to redeem himself by solving this case. With the secret help of his superior Satam (played by Vikram Gokhale), Sanjay takes up the investigation. But the official investigator of the case, Inspector Kedar Phadke (played by Arbaaz Khan) clashes with Sanjay as both of them separately delve deeper into the case. Even as the police jostle for leads and clues, the stoneman stalks the streets unabated, claiming victim after victim.
The series of killings took place during September 1983, between the Sion and Matunga areas, and the killer preyed on poor homeless pavement dwellers, killing them while they slept. The killer invariably left behind his mark – a heavy stone placed near the head of each victim. Even as the police groped in the dark, the killings stopped just as mysteriously as they had begun. It is one more recent film based on real incidents that took place in Mumbai, in the lines of Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday that went into the backdrop of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, and Apoorva Lakhia’s Shootout at Lokhandwala, which was a fictionalised account of the 1991 shootout in which police shot dreaded gangster Maya Dolas and five of his accomplishes.